A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Burial of Kojo is a 2019 Ghanaian drama in which a girl experiences prophetic visions while trying to rescue her dying father. There is some violence: One of the lead characters pushes his brother into a mineshaft and leaves him to die. Security guards of a goldmine open fire on men who illegally sneak into the mine and attempt to prospect for gold. On a telenovela that the characters are watching, a man strikes his brother on the head with a steel pole, knocking him into a swimming pool. Some blood is seen when the two main characters are shown fighting as kids. One of the lead characters often appears drunk on whiskey, and there's cigarette smoking throughout. Overall, this is a beautiful movie and a chance for families to learn about magical realism, life in Ghana, and an all-too-rare opportunity to experience cinema from Africa.
What's the story?
In THE BURIAL OF KOJO, Esi lives with her mother and father in a rural coastal village in Ghana. Unable to make ends meet, the father, Kojo, decides to take the family to Accra, the capital of Ghana, at the behest of his brother, Kwabena. Kwabena and Kojo have a frayed relationship; seven years prior, Kojo, driving drunk, killed Kwabena's bride on their wedding day. As Esi has visions of "the crow who ruled the realm in between," Kojo goes with Kwabena to visit Apalu, Kojo's oldest friend, to find work as an illegal miner of goldmines now owned and operated by the Chinese. While trying to get accustomed to their new lives in the city, Kwabena is revealed to have a vengeful scheme on Kojo. Kojo goes missing after a day at the mines, and as Esi and her mother desperately try to find him before it's too late, Esi's otherworldly visions begin to take on a more profound meaning.
Is it any good?
This is a lush and beautiful film, filled with dazzling images drawn as much from magical realism as from the setting itself. The setting, the Ghanaian countryside and the Ghanaian capital Accra, is revealed as a country at a crossroads between the global and the local, between the outside world of telenovelas and interior world of visions and folklore. As outside forces move in -- exemplified by the Chinese who have aggressively taken over one of the country's valuable resources -- the lead characters struggle to earn any kind of a living, and yet they find a kind of inherent enchantment in visions and perceptions exclusively their own.
The Burial of Kojo is a breathtaking experience, and while the foreshadowing and heightening of the central conflict between the two brothers via the use of Bible stories and a telenovela starts to feel heavyhanded and belabored, it ultimately doesn't change that this is a unique exploration of a familiar theme. The movie also highlights what is gained for audiences when studios and production companies invest more in films made by voices that have always been underrepresented in filmmaking. At its best, film uses story and image to tell unforgettable stories that enrich our understanding of our world, and in that, The Burial of Kojo succeeds unquestionably.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about magical realism. What is it, and how did The Burial of Kojo use elements of magical realism to tell its story?
How did the movie provide a glimpse into contemporary life in Ghana? What did you learn about the country, its people, its culture?
How did the movie use forms like the telenovela and the Bible story to heighten the conflict between the brothers and foreshadow where it was going?
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